Malcolm Warne heads off to Northallerton in search of some positive news on eateries

IN 2017 I have vowed to be more positive, to look for the good things in life and not get obsessed with the negatives.

Restaurateurs and landlords may rejoice – if only momentarily. I would not grace this vow to commit whole heartedly to glass-half-full evaluations with the status of a full-blown New Year resolution. That’s just too much of a straitjacket.

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But I will try. For starters, I will not whang on again about the paucity of decent eating places in Northallerton after dark. For one thing it’s no longer entirely true.

There a couple of new places that mean there is at last some half-decent alternatives to hitherto the only viable option when spending an evening in the county town, namely a pub crawl starting at the Durham Ox, taking in the Tickle Toby, probably the Black Bull and perhaps the infamous Club Amadeus and then bringing the proceedings to a close with a king prawn vindaloo at the Lion of Asia.

And after all that Northallerton now has Street Angels courtesy of those nice people at the New Life Baptist Church who will pick you up off the floor, make sure you are all right and even give you a pair flip-flops to stagger home in if you can no longer manage your six-inch platform heels - if that’s your footwear of choice on a night out (which isn’t mine I hasten to add - even at weekends).

Talking of the Lion of Asia, the Indian above the bookies near the town hall is as near as Northallerton gets to culinary heritage. It’s been going for more than 30 years which for a restaurant in this town makes it historic. But I can’t tell you what it’s like because I’ve never eaten a meal there where my judgement, how can put this, wasn’t impaired to some degree. Not drunk you understand, just inebriated to the point where I couldn’t tell a balti from a bhuna. Disgraceful, I know.

OK, Northallerton’s “night-time economy”, as the planners call it, is pants. But hey, in the spirit of 2017 positivity, during the day it’s completely different. Have you ever stood in the middle of Northallerton feeling hungry and tried to decide where to go for lunch? The choices are mind-boggling. There are lots of cafes, like Bettys. And almost every regular store has a cafe too. Barkers has three – or is it four if you include the home store out on Yafforth Road. In fact Maxwells and Grovers are probably missing a trick there. Surely they can squeeze in a coffee machine, kitchen and some tables and chairs?

Just as the Joe Cornish Gallery in Zetland Street has done and we headed there first. But the quiche and goats cheese wrap which appeared to be the main dishes didn’t appeal. It was a bitterly cold day and we felt the need for something more substantial.

So round the corner we went into the High Street to the Golden Lion Hotel, the dependable if somewhat unexciting Golden Lion.

Whoops, that negativity again. But I think you’ll know what I mean. As befits the prime town centre hotel, the Golden Lion does simple food to an acceptable standard. It’s never going to trouble the Michelin inspector.

The Crow family have done a good job in taking over what is a Northallerton institution, spending a small fortune on refurbishing it while retaining its old coaching inn character. The work continues too. The front lounge has been re-done recently as have the toilets in the main bar. These are now clearly the poshest loos in town, outstripping even Barkers with their added birdsong.

We sat in the back bar adjacent to the glass-covered old well which was revealed in the initial Crow refurbishment. Sylvia looked down warily. She doesn’t trust toughened glass.

But there was plenty to distract her from the possibility of falling down the well on an extremely lengthy menu which covered everything from sandwiches to fillet steak.

She was perfectly happy with her hot and herby tomato soup (£4.50) served with a warm roll and butter and found no fault with her grilled gammon steak and pineapple (£8.30) served with chunky, nicely dry and crisp chips, peas and fried egg.

My crayfish and crab terrine (£4.75) from the specials board was served in the style of a prawn cocktail with Marie Rose sauce and salad. Perhaps the terrine was bit too chilled because it wasn’t particularly strongly flavoured but I quibble.

My giant Yorkshire pudding filled with lambs liver, bacon, sausage, onions and gravy had much to commend it. It was heroic in size, not at all soggy bottomed and overflowing with good winter-warming meat and gravy. The only problem – and this is definitely more than a quibble – was the overcooked liver which had taken on the character of a preserved Ancient Grecian wrestler’s jock-strap.

Looking on the bright side (as I always do these days), service was good. The bill with two soft drinks was £26.95.

The Golden Lion Hotel

114 High Street, Northallerton DL7 8PP

Tel: 01609 777411 Web: www.golden-lion-hotel.co.uk

Open for food: Almost all day for seven days except for Sunday evenings

Disabled access. Allergies catered for.

Ratings

Food quality: 4/5

Service: 4/7

Surroundings: 4/5

Value: 4/5